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LAKER AIRWAYS LTD. v. PAN AM

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


October 9, 1984

LAKER AIRWAYS LIMITED, Plaintiff,
v.
PAN AMERICAN WORLD AIRWAYS, et al., Defendants; LAKER AIRWAYS LIMITED, Plaintiff, v. SABENA, BELGIAN WORLD AIRWAYS, et al., Defendants; LAKER AIRWAYS LIMITED, Plaintiff, v. UNION DE TRANSPORTS AERIENS, et al., Defendants

The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREENE

MEMORANDUM

 This is a motion for a preliminary injunction to restrain defendants British Airways and British Caledonian Airways from engaging in foreign proceedings which would interfere with the jurisdiction of this Court. The background of the current phase of the proceeding, briefly, is as follows. This case had been pending in this Court for some months when these two defendants, among others, proceeded ex parte and without notice to this Court, to secure an injunction in the British High Court of Justice which for a lengthy period of time precluded Laker from taking any steps in the litigation here. *fn1" See generally, Laker Airways Ltd. v. Pan American World Airways, 559 F. Supp. 1124 (D.D.C. 1983); Laker Airways Ltd. v. Pan American World Airways, 577 F. Supp. 348 (D.D.C. 1983); Laker Airways v. Sabena, 235 U.S. App. D.C. 207, 731 F.2d 909 (D.C. Cir. 1984). Ultimately, on July 19, 1984, the British House of Lords ordered the injunction dissolved. House of Lords Judgment in British Airways Board v. Laker Airways Ltd. reprinted in XXIII Interg. Leg. Mats. 727 (1984).

 Immediately following the House of Lords decision, Laker applied to this Court for the issuance of a temporary restraining order to prevent these defendants from repeating their previous conduct in the same or another form. The Court issued such an order, and a hearing was held on the motion for preliminary injunction on October 5, 1984. *fn2"

 The irreparability of the injury to Laker in the event of further interference with the litigation here is obvious as is the likelihood of its success on the merits should there again be such interference. Laker Airways v. Sabena, supra. Further, while defendants profess that they do not intend to repeat their previous conduct, this primarily demonstrates that an injunction would not injure them. In short, under the traditional standards for injunctive relief *fn3" the issuance of a preliminary injunction is clearly warranted. The real question is -- what activities should such an injunction cover? As to that, there does not now appear to be any real dispute about two of the three relevant problems.

 First. There is general agreement that, following the decisions of the United States courts and that of the House of Lords, the defendants cannot maintain that they have the legal right to seek to frustrate the proceedings in this Court through orders of the British courts, irrespective of whether those orders operate directly to interfere with this Court's jurisdiction or whether they do so indirectly (by preventing Laker from litigating here). Injunctive relief to that end is therefore appropriate and will be granted.

 Second. There is also general agreement that this Court should not, at least at this time, enjoin the so-called parallel proceedings in the British courts. *fn4" Injunctive relief against the institution or maintenance of such proceedings will accordingly be denied.

 Third. The difficult issue -- and the one on which the parties are in sharp disagreement -- relates to the Court's authority to enjoin the defendants from seeking to importune the British Parliament or the British executive authorities *fn5" to take actions which might frustrate the ability of United States courts to continue with this litigation. *fn6"

 The Court suggested to the parties that, because of its difficulty and complexity, this issue be briefed, and that they assure that Court that during the briefing period they would not change the status quo. *fn7" British Airways agreed to do so; British Caledonian did not. Thus, although the Court has not yet decided whether it has the authority to issue an order which would permanently preclude these defendants from seeking to abort this lawsuit *fn8" by securing action by the British legislative or executive bodies, *fn9" it has no choice but to issue a preliminary order to that effect at this time pending further briefing. Failure to do so could well moot this aspect of the proceedings and conceivably Laker's lawsuit against these defendants.

 It should be well understood, however, that the Court is taking this action only to preserve the status quo pending the briefing and decision of the legislative-executive question. The issuance of today's injunction should therefore not be regarded as a definitive decision -- one way or the other -- on whether the Court has the power ultimately to enjoin defendants from seeking British legislative and executive remedies with respect to the continuation of this litigation by Laker, or whether such an injunction is advisable in these circumstances.


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